WILMINGTON, N.C. — Michael and Cheyenne Kupper were arrested and charged with felony child abuse and human trafficking Friday June 10. According to local news reports, the couple was “harboring a 27-year-old female victim as a servant,” and their six children showed signs of neglect. A New Hanover County Services representative added, “One of the children reportedly had fleas in their hair.”
According to the same reports, a relative, Elisa Barrett, is claiming that the charges of child neglect and human trafficking are ridiculous. Barrett believes that the alleged victim “is framing the Kuppers” because she lost her job and “could not have Michael Kupper for herself.”
Barrett also added that she believes that the arrests show a sign of “religious bigotry” on the part of the police. The couple is Wiccan. According to the reports, they were in a coven with the alleged victim. Barrett told reporters that “the woman lived with them, participating in sexual activities with the two. Part of those activities included ‘dominance and submission.'”
In response, a police spokeswoman said that there was no mention of Wicca in the police reports and “WPD does not discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs.”
Both Michael and Cheyenne Kupper are currently being held at the New Hanover County jail with bond set at $1 million each. The children were taken into custody by the county services. We will have more on this story as it unfolds.
- A two-decade-old religious freedom court case made headlines again when California’s Ninth Circuit “found that a federal judge didn’t check whether prison officials were complying with a consent decree about an inmate’s Wiccan religion before he dismissed it.” The panel found that the federal judge “overlooked [inmate William] Rouser’s dispute to the prison officials’ compliance claims.” According to the court’s opinion, the judge neglected to address the prison’s full compliance and did not “analyze whether the purposes of the 2011 decree had been ‘adequately served.'” The full story is outlined at courthousenews.com.
- In another religious freedom story, Native News Online reports that the “federal government admitted that it was wrong to send an undercover agent to raid a American Indian powwow and seize nearly 50 eagle feathers used for religious worship.” Federal law restricts the possession and use of eagle feathers without a permit, which are available to “federally recognized tribes.” The Lipan Apache tribe of Texas, however, is not federally recognized, which led to the raid and court case. The subsequent settlement agreement has been called “historic.” As reported, “It ends a decade of litigation by recognizing the right of Pastor Robert Soto […] and 400 other Native Americans to freely use eagle feathers for Native American worship.”
- The Satanic Temple now has its first member running for public office, while openly “acknowledging affiliation.” Steve Hill, a former U.S. Marine Sergeant, is running as a Democrat for the California State Senate (D-21). In a TST press release, Hill said, “I am not an establishment politician and my sense of civic responsibility is not compromised by religious loyalties. As an atheist and organizer for The Satanic Temple’s Los Angeles Chapter, I fight for true religious freedom.” More on Hill’s background and campaign are posted on his own website: Steve Hill for Senate.
Historic Texts and Sacred Spaces
- According to the Archaelology News Network, the “German Stonehenge” is now open to the public. The site, called Ringheiligtum Pömmelte, “is estimated to be around 4,300 years old and was discovered in 1999 in the forest near the banks of the Elbe River.” Made only of wood, the structure had to be reconstructed, and it sits above a burial ground containing the skeletons of children and young women. The ancient sacred space, which can be visited, has been placed “on the tourist trail known as Himmelsweg.”
- In Mexico, Jehovah’s Witnesses are being blamed for damaging an ancient temple of the Otomi Indians. According to AP, “the assailants [… are blamed for] toppling stone structures used as altars, breaking carved stones and scattering offerings of flowers, fruit and paintings at the remote mountain shrine known as Mayonihka or Mexico Chiquito.” A spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mexico denied any connection with the attack. However, local witnesses maintain it was them.
- In Tibet, the Chinese government has reportedly ordered the eviction of the Buddhist monastery Larung Gar. According to Lion’s Roar, and confirmed by other sources, 5,000 monks and nuns now “face eviction.” According to these reports, the order was placed due to the government’s concern over the area’s growing population and associated risks. There is now an online petition to stop the eviction. The Lion’s Roar reports that this has happened before, and it was stopped by a public outcry. Supporters are hoping that history will repeat itself, and the government will once again back down on its demands.
- Another sacred space was recently damaged, according to a video news release. Kaniakapupu, considered to be one of Hawaii’s most sacred cultural sites, was vandalized June 23. The historic site was the “King Kamehameha III Summer Palace.” According to the reports, “Vandals etched a series of crosses on at least three of the inside walls of the crumbling structure.” Chairman of the site’s restoration group said, “It’s not the first time they’ve carved all kinds of stuff in there. They’re carving happy faces, all kinds of stupid stuff. This plaster is 180 years old; was put here by the hands of the kapuna. It was the first government building built by the government of Hawai‘i. When you vandalize it or damage it in anyway, there’s no way we can repair that.” Watch the full video news release.
- According to Quartz, author Dan Brown has donated funds to digitize a number of historic occult and religious texts. These texts include: Corpus Hermeticum, Jakob Böhme’s works in English, Giordano Bruno’s Spaccio de la bestia trionfante, the first printed version of the tree of life, an early Quran printed in Arabic and a first-edition Quran in Latin, and a hand-colored version of the Bible. Quartz reports that most of the collection will be available for free in Spring 2017.
- In his book The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer recounts the race to save the ancient and historic manuscripts from jihadists and al Qaeda. National Geographic’s Simon Worrall interviewed Hammer about his research and the book’s story. Worrall writes, “[Hammer] explains how the Timbuktu manuscripts disprove the myth that Africa had no literary or historical culture, why Henry Louis Gates had an epiphany when he saw them, and why the jihadists found them so threatening.” According to the report, the manuscripts are currently in Bamako, and are being restored and digitized.
- It was just announced that Robin Hardy, director of the British film The Wicker Man (1973) has died at the age of 86. Hardy’s The Wicker Man is one of only three feature length films that he ever directed. However, the film is critically acclaimed and, still more than 40 years later, considered a cult classic. It is often found ranked among the top horror films of the decade and overall. Mr. Hardy was born October 2, 1929 in Surrey, England. He died Friday after being hospitalized for several weeks. The announcement was made public by Hardy’s wife, Ms Victoria Webster. What is remembered, lives!
- Lastly, violinist Lindsey Stirling shares her original song “The Arena” in a video spectacle, containing a captivating post-apocalyptic, steam punk-inspired atmosphere.